A few weeks back, I saw a performance by Denver folk punks Blind Man Deaf Boy at the late, great Tucson Live Music Space, and gave it a less than stellar (but certainly not scathing) review. Their reaction was a very public and embarrassing meltdown, which brings us to Tucson-based Sun Bones.
Last summer, I criticized aspects of a Sun Bones show at Solar Culture in a Live review, and while the band's response was mute in comparison to Blind Man Deaf Boy, their fans were outraged. Whatever. Their music was great then but Sun Bones were on fire in this performance—somewhere along the way they've made a quantum leap forward. The older songs were tighter and more focused, with several of the slower pieces mesmerizing as the band's controlled dynamics exploded at exactly the right moment. Sun Bones also played four new ones, two from their just-released single and two yet to be recorded. These also were fine examples of artistic growth.
The theatrical elements Sun Bones employ regularly at their concerts—jumping offstage and engaging in displays of performance art-inspired visual depictions of the music—was my point of contention last summer. Have Sun Bones changed or have I changed? I don't know. The band members toned this down, for sure. But on the occasions when they did get physical, it seemed fun and natural, not rehearsed or pretentious. More important, it seems Sun Bones have found the middle ground where the performance art and the music can exist side by side, where the visuals make sense and add an extra dimension to the sound rather than being a distraction.
Bogan Via, a synth-pop duo from Phoenix, were also stellar, albeit in a completely different way. Madeleine Miller (vocals, keyboards, percussion) and Bret Bender (vocals, keyboards, guitar) possessed traces of the minimal drones of Suicide and the more friendly—and less scary—emotional impact and melodicism of Depeche Mode. Bogan Via managed to update this into a contemporary and distinctive style, which is to say, they sound modern without sounding like Icona Pop. Miller and Bender have equally great voices, and when they sang together, the percolating synths, drum machines and vocals meshed into complete pop euphoria.